June 2008 Reflection

In my last entry, I expressed my mild dislike for the windy, rainy Irish winters. The seasons have indeed changed, but the breeze is a constant here, and it’s strange now that it’s my favorite part of the warm (though not hot) spring days that are common now. I arrived this past September during an unusually—indeed unprecedented—spell of cold wind and rain that had lasted literally for weeks. Now, as dusk begins around ten in the evening and the sunsets over the cow pastures not far outside my window become more and more dramatic, I seem to, at last, be wearing the khaki shorts that I’ve so longed for. And for all of my past complaints about the weather for the first six or seven months of my stay here, the sunny days that I’m experiencing now may make Ireland the best place on Earth to live during the warm months.

From the date of this writing, I have a little over eight weeks to enjoy these Irish summer days before I head back to the US for law school. The four years of active duty service that I’ve committed to the Army, as a JAG (Judge Advocate General’s Corps) lawyer, will start after law school, and I’m looking forward to the experience when this still-distant era begins. For now, however, I have three or four completely free summers to do whatever I wish (and whatever my budget permits). After that, there’s even the possibility of spending three years elsewhere in Europe (namely, Germany or northern Italy), via the Army, once my active duty service begins.

But this summer, I’m getting as much traveling done as I can, since the wanderlust bug has definitely bitten me bad, and I’m frothing at the mouth to get more stamps on my passport. Perhaps like the old witch-doctor process of getting rid of a tapeworm, the only way I may ever be able to rid myself of my rabid travel obsession is by material denial; in this case being overwhelmed with law school work that will keep me from surfing discount travel websites on a daily basis. I’ve certainly seen a lot this year: Iceland, southern Portugal, Galicia, Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Alpine France, Geneva, Morocco, and a huge portion of Ireland. And I’ll be going a few more places during the summer; next month, I’ll be traveling from Dubrovnik, Croatia through Slovenia and to Hungary and Slovakia. My last name is actually Hungarian, and some of my ancestors came over to Appalachian America a couple of generations ago to work as coal miners, intending only to stay a few years (they were obviously wrong!). So this trip will be partly genealogical; no one has yet been back to the “old country” to see where the family came from, and I’ve got a list of towns in Hungary and Slovenia of which a few members of my dad’s extended family are eagerly awaiting pictures.

Also, and maybe just as moving, I’ll be traveling to Normandy, France, to retrace the final footsteps of a maternal uncle of mine, who, with his 29th Infantry Division, invaded Normandy in June of 1944. He was killed in the hedge battles outside the town of St. Lo, a couple of weeks after the beach invasions, and was buried there for a few years until my family had his body sent back to a family cemetery in Kentucky. He was my age, 23, when he died, and I’ve located the cemetery where he was buried, which is now a German POW cemetery, incidentally. The twist of the whole situation is currently making me consider submitting an article to any interested magazine, if possible. My travel buddy for this trip, a guy from my church who’s become one of my best friends over the past year, is a student from Bavaria whose grandfather fought at one point under the main German general of the battle. So he, a German history student with a better command of English than I have, and me, a freshly commissioned U.S. Army lieutenant, will walk the military history tours together where our relatives fought on opposing sides. I think sometimes we take for granted how far we’ve come, if only through little things like my trip with my friend.

Experiences like these have characterized my year here, and any longwinded, philosophical reflection that I can attempt to make about them will only detract from their poignancy. But maybe, as I end my final reflection for this year, the best testament to the lasting bonds that I’ve made here is the very fact that I’m not leaving Maynooth until I absolutely have to; indeed, an alarming ten days before I start my law school orientation in a city to which I still need to move all of my possessions. I want it this way; I want to be involved in Maynooth’s community, whether directing music at church (as I’m doing next Sunday), chatting with my book-club, teaching piano lessons (I have four students now), engaging with the academic-types at the university or just having great conversations at the pub, as long as I can make my experience last. And the weather is great, too, for now.

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